Small Otago farming village could soon host airport

Tarras. Photo credit: Google Maps

Tarras - a small farming settlement in Central Otago - is being eyed up as a possible location for a new airport.

The current concept idea is to build a 2.2km, jet capable runway on a 750 hectare block of land in Tarras.

So far, $45 million has been spent on the project - which includes purchasing the land bordered by State Highway 8 and 8A.

Christchurch Airport chief executive Malcolm Johns said in a written statement the airport team was pleased to have secured the land so it can begin discussions.

"Our top priority is a conversation with the people who live closest to the site - the Tarras community. This is their home and it's important they are given the opportunity to ask us their questions directly and understand our thinking."

Johns said the project team would consult with people across the South Island.

"South Islanders are great at rolling up their sleeves and working together to get things done. We want to hear from those with ideas and feedback as we further investigate the feasibility of the project and shape its design."

He said Christchurch Airport had long seen the potential for a new airport in Central Otago.

Christchurch Airport started work on the proposal before COVID-19 disrupted air travel globally.

"The virus doesn't change too much of this proposal - except for timeframes. We are confident the central and southern South Island will always be a place where people seek to live, visit and work.

"We can now look beyond the status quo to talk about and plan for that future.

"This is an opportunity for all South Islanders to work together on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a piece of vital infrastructure, that is one of the most sustainable airports in the world and able to make a real difference for future generations."

Central Otago District Council said in a written statement that leaders today received the word of the plans.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said it was surprising and big news for the community.

"Christchurch Airport has signalled in a media release this afternoon that they are taking a long-term approach and their top priority is having conversations with and working alongside the community. This is very early days in what will be a very long process. At this early stage I encourage all our community to get informed and get engaged in the process and form their own view."

Chief executive Sanchia Jacobs said her executive team had just learned of the news today.

"As a consenting authority, we don't have a view on this but will be watching with interest and in the event an application is made for consent we will follow the statutory process."